The big interview
Sixty years, and India is still clueless about the man who gave his blood trying to secure freedom for the country. Commission after commission was formed, but there is no single, definitive version of the events that led to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s mysterious death...or disappearance.
Did Netaji die in an air crash in 1945? Or was he alive and escaped to Russia? Did he come back to India in the guise of a sadhu? Numerous theories galore, but at the moment, as debutant writer and journalist Anuj Dhar puts it: “People may or may not like Netaji, but they have a right to know what happened to him…how he died and where.”
In the latest book on one of Independent India’s enduring mysteries, Back from Dead: Inside the Subhas Bose mystery, Dhar attempts to take the lid off the hypothesis that Netaji died in the 1945 plane crash — taking away the very foundation of the theory that government pedalled for years.
Dhar even alleges that the government concealed information, destroyed evidence and has been “the most unreliable party in cracking the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose mystery.”
How did you stumble upon the piece of information that Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was not in the plane that crashed in Taipei on August 18, 1945?
Let’s get this straight. There was no “plane crash”. It was a subterfuge for Netaji’s escape. There were hints thrown by secret papers. So I requested the President of Taiwan and the Mayor of Taipei to confirm whether or not a plane carrying Netaji had crashed in Taipei. The answer was that there was no evidence of any.
Why do you say the Indian government doesn’t want the truth to come out?
Our government has never been interested in probing the matter fairly. They concealed information, destroyed crucial evidence and hampered efforts to explore the Taiwanese and Russian angles. How can you trust those who have obstructed justice? It’s a myth to say that the Indian government formed commission after commission.
It acted only when it was pressured to do so by public opinion. There is irrefutable evidence to prove that the Government of India is a most unreliable party in the Netaji mystery. When India attained freedom in 1947, one of the things the government should have taken up in earnest was to find out what had become of the man who had played a pivotal part in freedom struggle. It never did.
In your book, you mention Gumnami baba and Bhagwanji as the possible disguises that Netaji donned... Who were they according to you?
Bhagwanji was also known as Gumnami Baba. There is evidence of primary nature linking him to Netaji. Several freedom fighters who had known Netaji intimately took Bhagwanji to be Netaji and served him in total secrecy. This case must be probed further to establish this extraordinary man’s identity. The government has information on him.
According to your book, Netaji had supposedly made it to Russia (then the USSR) where he was received by Soviet officials. What did they do to him? Did you speak to anyone from Russia in this regard? What do they say?
I pooled in information from different sources, including some persons who had taken up the matter with the Russians. The assertion that Netaji was detained in a Siberian camp appears to be true.
Did you see Shyam Benegal’s film on Subhas Bose? What do you think? Do you feel that it was a well-researched subject?
How I wish I could have met Mr Benegal when he was making the movie.
Do you think that the Mukherjee panel will be able to do something? Will it be able to have conclusive evidence one way or the other?
I certainly hope so. But I have serious doubts about the government’s intentions. The Mukherjee commission, formed following a court order, has been running against the government ever since it began functioning. It pains me to hear people saying that Justice Mukherjee has been taking a long time. That’s all government’s fault. What could he do when even a telephone was not given to him for six months? Justice Mukherjee has often exposed the Government’s fishy behaviour. If only media could lend him the ears they have for Laloo Prasad Yadav!
Do you think that the Russian authorities will co-operate? If yes, why didn’t they do it around 60 years ago?
Why not? Russia is India’s foremost friend. They will surely respect our sentiments if our prime minister requests them to state facts. Media must ask the prime minister to do the needful to end the controversy once and for all.
Why is there so much Nehru bashing in your book?
Is there? My book deals with the circumstances leading to the disappearance of Netaji, and the subsequent controversial developments up to our time. It is rather clear that Netaji did not die in August 1945 and that our government has a lot to hide.
Noted journalist and columnist MV Kamath asked you in his column If Netaji had differences with Gandhi (which a lot of our thinkers and politicians did, as your book says) then why should he hail him as the father of the Nation?
It is beyond the subject matter of my investigation. I am not Netaji’s biographer.